My dog, Sadie, a 5-year-old Corgi mix, went through three days of training at Top Dog University in St. Marys throughout the past week.
The training taught me a lot, and made me reflect on things that were somewhat surprising.
For example, forgiveness.
In three days, Sadie learned how to walk properly on a leash, she learned to sit, to heel and made strides in overcoming her aggression toward other dogs.
Dogs are smart — very smart, yet people leave them on the sides of roads like furniture, or abuse and neglect them, as if they don’t know or feel what’s happening to them.
When I adopted Sadie in February, I was unsure of her past experiences. For the first two months, she was a mellow girl. Around the third month, she began showing major aggression toward other dogs, making our daily walks stressful and embarassing experiences. I knew we needed help — yes “we,” because I made the commitment to her.
A picture of Sadie eventually surfaced on the Clearfield County Humane Control’s Facebook page, showing her in a filthy barn next to a bathtub full of food, which she shared with other dogs. When the photo popped up on my phone, she was lying next to me in bed, and I knew both of our lives had changed for the better.
Every week, I put my “Pets of the Week” section together, featuring pictures and bios of animals in three area shelters. And every week, the reasons they are at the shelter make my stomach turn. The owner moved away and “couldn’t take the dog with them,” etc. Most of the time, though, there is no reason at all.
People make a ton of mistakes. Circumstances cause us to act out or hurt the people we love. But most of the time, the people we love forgive us for our mistakes, our past, the things we did when we didn’t know any better.
One of the many things I have learned from Sadie’s training is that these broken animals have a past, and when we take them in, it’s our job to forgive them for it, not give them a week or two to get over it then return them. Just as we do, they need someone to stick around — the tough times will pass.
Our animals greet us with wagging tails when we get home, as if we’ve been gone for decades, snuggle and soothe us after a stressful days. Even if we scold them for doing something wrong, they forgive us instantly — forget it even happened minutes later.
With many rescues, their entire life has felt like a mistake. They spend their days tied to a doghouse, in a kennel for 12 hours or wandering the streets alone. Who are we to give up on them, because of the past they didn’t choose?
Dog trainers Marissa and Ben Kleinman, have restored my faith in humanity. The amount of time and effort they put into training Sadie, and training me, was encouraging. They encounter many scared and timid dogs, traumatized by abuse, or angry and aggressive ones who need a second chance.
Instead of throwing in the towel, they help these dogs become their future, not where they came from. The owner and the dog leave together, taking with them a sense of healing and hope for a new beginning.
For Sadie and me, the past is behind us. I’m sure hers will pop up now and then, and so will mine. But I know we will forgive each other for that, time and time again.
Brianne Fleming is a writer for the Courier Express. She lives in Falls Creek with two cats and Sadie.